By the staff of Belt Magazine 

Perhaps you are writing a thinkpiece on Donald Trump’s comments about “riots” in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. Or covering violence at Trump rallies and want to include possible slugfests when the GOP gathers together. Or maybe it is already time to preview July’s Republican National Convention.

Chances are that you will want to throw in some local color, and references to the city in which the convention will be held. As readers of over 17,325 articles about Cleveland by people unfamiliar with the city, let us suggest some dos and don’ts.


The burning river. If you do, you will be the 17,326th person to throw that into your lede. Not only is it hackneyed, it’s terribly dated. The Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, 47 years ago. Think about what the city you are currently living in (New York? D.C.? San Fran?) was like 47 years ago. Exactly.

2016_Republican_National_Convention_LogoThe Cleveland Browns. Once again, you are following in footsteps now thigh-deep. Even Siri is in the joke, directing you to Browns stadium if you ask her about “sadness” in Cleveland. Yes, they often lose. That is not news, or new to point out. Strike that line and try again.

LeBron. Clevelanders are not as tired of having LeBron be the throwaway hook to a Cleveland story as we are the dated river and Browns mentions, but mentioning him is unlikely to cause readers to think, “Oh really? He plays for Cleveland?” You can do better.

Rock and Roll and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. See LeBron, above. Feel free to mention Cleveland’s pathbreaking female rock critic, though.

Comeback city. Some folks claim the city is a great success story. And in many ways it is “coming back” from the depths of the foreclosure crisis. But it was also just named the “most distressed city” in the nation.

Most Miserable City. Some folks claim this is a terrible place right now; see “most distressed” above. However, Cleveland has seen some success and there is a newfound sense of optimism here.


Tamir Rice. A 12-year-old boy, he was killed and no one was charged. The prosecutor in charge of the case lost in the March primary, but his opponent is no fan of Black Lives Matter. Cleveland did not have the riots of Ferguson or Baltimore, an important fact that journalists could analyze variously.

Chief Wahoo. Instead of talking about our losing football team, talk about our racist baseball one! Controversy over the mascot of the Cleveland Indians (as well as the name of the team itself) rages every spring, and yet, by the subsequent spring training, the horrible caricature remains.

Harvey Pekar. He should be a cliché by now but he is not: he’s simply, hands down, the best writer from Cleveland ever, and he wrote about Cleveland better than anyone else.

CLE from the lake

Credit: W. Rickman

Mayor Frank Jackson. He’s been leading the city since 2005, and may well run for a fourth term, not because he is so popular but because it seems few others want the job. His administration has been plagued by corruption and the Cleveland police department was the subject of a scathing Department of Justice report. A fun thing to do is to listen to him speak.

Lake Erie. Over the next few decades, Cleveland’s location on the shore of a Great Lake is likely to become more important to its economy, to climate change, and to the region.

What happened the last time Cleveland hosted the RNC.  The nominee didn’t show up, but Jesse Owens shook his hand.

We hope this listicle (Belt’s first ever) will become a handy bookmark for anyone crafting an introduction and needing a phrase or two to describe Cleveland. We are excited to read your quick takes — and if you are working on a well-researched, non-flyover-y piece previewing the convention? Well — step right in and look around.

Stay tuned for next month’s “5 Things To Do — And the One Book To Buy — When You Are In Cleveland For The GOP in July”

Banner photo by PBS NewsHour

Belt is a reader-supported publication — become a member, renew your membership, or purchase a book from our store.